To mark the week we were all supposed to be at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, eventing editor Pippa Roome spoke to William Fox-Pitt for episode 14 of the Horse & Hound Podcast on his record-breaking six Burghley winners, his first memories from the event and why it holds such a special place in his heart.
Looking back at his first Burghley win – and his first five-star victory – in 1994, William says: “I went there with this amazing old boy, Chaka and I thought I had quite a good horse under me, but it never crossed my mind that I was going to win. But I think the lack of doubt is probably why it happened — I hadn’t won at that level before, I was only 25, but I thought I would have a go.
“Chaka was quite good at dressage and I wasn’t so it was quite exciting to be in the lead after the first phase, which was something that had never happened in my life. And then nothing seemed to go wrong — it just kind of happened.
“I remember thinking ‘oh my God, if it’s that easy, maybe I should give up now while I’m ahead, because I can’t quite believe it’s come off’. It will go down in my memory as one of those unexpected moments where suddenly you’ve beaten all of these riders and you think how did that happen?”
William says his 1994 Burghley victory definitely changed his eventing career forever.
“It really changed everything. At that point, people started to take me a bit more seriously — until then I was just seen a university student who had ridden a few nice horses, was a lucky boy and could ride across country, but no one thought I could do anything else. And I think they suddenly thought ‘oh, maybe he can ride’.
“The following year I was sent Cosmopolitan [who went on to take William to his first Olympics in 1996] from his owner Frank Andrews, and I’m sure I only got him because I suddenly had form at top level.
“All my career I had won pink rosettes and best boy awards and suddenly I thought ‘no, I can be good at this and I can win’. I thought I could try and do this again, but also not many people win at five-star, so maybe I should quit while I’m ahead and get a ‘real’ life.”
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To hear more of William’s exclusive interview, listen to episode 14 of The Horse & Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app
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